The question on everyone’s mind is how will the market change now that Google begins to play an ever increasing important role in marketing for local businesses. They are offering services such as publicity with paid packs, local service ads, zero-click SERPS, and other related services. Considering all this, it begs the question, why bother having a website if Google is slowly becoming the business ‘homepage’. Our answer to that is it is still important, going into 2019.
Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable trend of marketing effort being rewarded less, in the form of rankings, traffic, and conversions. There have been noticeable key developments that showcase this effect. The first being the growth of no-click SERPs between 2016 and 2018. Which saw it increase to 61.03% from 41.57%. This is indicative of how users do not require to go further than Google’s own interface.
Another factor to consider is the growing encroachment of paid ads in local packs. There has been an increasing amount of ads, with a survey finding out of 11,000 SERPs in 2018, 35% featured ads. Then there is the Local Service Ads program in which Google positions themselves between the businesses and consumers. It doesn’t stop there, with Google inserting companies such as Groupon or Doordash/GrubHub in your listing.
The best factor to understand Google’s establishment is the term coined by Mike Blumenthal, who calls Google the ‘homepage’ for local businesses. The Google Knowledge Panel for your listing can get all the information required by a user. Without ever having to visit your site, they can leave satisfied. Google has engineered ways to keep users within Google’s platforms. Yet, if this leads you to conclude that websites have become obsolete, keep reading.
The businesses that rank high organically are very likely to have high associated local pack rankings. Disregarding directory-type platforms, brand websites that rank high will often make it into Google’s local pack. This correlation between organic website rankings and local pack presence was found to be at 75%, indicating the importance of websites.
One thing to make note of is that local and organic results didn’t correlate. This can be attributed to the presence of spam GMB listings, or to mystery SERPs that made no sense. Or perhaps due to Google testing out
Additionally, many local businesses are not making it to the first page of Google anymore in some categories because the organic SERPs are inundated with best-of lists and directories. Often, local business websites were pushed down to the second page of the organic results. In other words, if spam, “best-ofs,” and mysteries were removed, the local-organic correlation would likely be much higher than 75%.
Further, one recent study found that even when Google’s Local Service Ads are present, 43.9% of clicks went to the organic SERPs. Obviously, if you can make it to the top of the organic SERPs, this puts you in very good CTR shape from a purely organic standpoint.
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